This is the inspiring moment when eight-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer Bailey Matthews pushed away his walking support and crossed the line of his first ever triathlon unaided.
Bailey’s parents admitted being “overwhelmed” by the reaction of the crowd, who cheered him over the line after completing a 100 metre lake swim, 4,000 metre bike ride and 1,300 metre run as part of the Castle Howard Triathlon in North Yorkshire yesterday.
Hundreds of people, who stayed behind to watch him finish, roared their encouragement as he stepped away from his specially-adapted walking frame to finish the last 20 metres of the race unaided.
His mother Julie Hardcastle told The Yorkshire Post: “You can see his little face when he came round and saw everyone, that was his way of finishing in style and showing everyone what he could do. It was the response from the crowd that pushed him to do that.”
Bailey, from Worksop, was born nine weeks early and diagnosed at 18 months old with a form of cerebral palsy, a neurological condition that affects movement and co-ordination, making every-day tasks much more difficult.
His journey to taking on one of the country’s most difficult triathlon courses started when his father Jonathan Matthews, himself a keen triathlete, started pushing him in a wheelchair round a five kilometre course at a weekly Park Run event.
“He’s such an inspiration to other children, and adults as well.”
The 47-year-old, from Doncaster, then adapted a walking frame so Bailey, who needs regular physiotherapy to help with his mobility, could get round the course himself.
He soon expressed the desire to take on a triathlon, and embarked on training using a bike fitted with special stabilisers and trips to a local lake to practice swimming.
Mr Matthews said: “The majority of what he does is self-propelled. He sets his own goals when he is swimming and says ‘I am going to do x amount of metres today’. He is more than eager to get out and do something. If we can make that easier for him then that it what we will do.”
He added: “The response has been quite overwhelming. One lady asked us if he did it as a sponsorship thing, but he just did it because it was something he wanted to do.
“The Castle Howard Triathlon is a very difficult, rough course, there is no way in the world he could do it unaided, because of how undulating and uneven the ground was. It would have been very difficult even for able-bodied children.
“Because of the size and weight of his walking frame, it is sometimes easier for him to walk unaided than to drag it along. The response of spectators was overwhelming, he came last but everyone was waiting for him, which they didn’t have to do.”
Bailey’s mother Julie, 40, who lives with her son and his brother Finlay, nine, in Worksop, said: “Bailey has always been very determined. If he wants to do something he will find a way to do it, even if it is not the conventional way.
“He has always struggled with getting dressed, things that parents of other children take for granted, he does struggle with, just every day things are more difficult for him, but he never lets it bother him. He doesn’t see himself as different to anyone else.
“We have always tried to make sure that if there is something he wants to do, there is no such word as ‘can’t’.
“He had made his mind up, we knew he would do it but I didn’t expect the reaction from everyone else. The difficult thing is that for us it is normal. We know how amazing he is but the response we have had from other people has been amazing. He inspires us all the time.
“We think it is amazing but you don’t realise that other people thing that as well.”
Yvonne Turner, one of the race organisers, said: “It was an amazing sight. He contacted the race director and he made the arrangements for him to take part.
“His Dad helped him with the swim and he did the cycle section with the help of stabilisers. Race support people were with him throughout but when he got to the running section he kept trying to push his walker away.
“At the end he was so determined to finish unaided he shoved it away and set off alone. He fell initially but got up and crossed unaided.”
Pictures of Bailey crossing the line have caused a sensation on Facebook, where they have been shared nearly 3,000 times and liked by more than 33,000 people.
One Facebook user, Lisa Tallents, wrote: This fantastic little boy brought me to tears when i watched him leave his frame to walk over the winning line in my home town. Well done to his family for helping and supporting him to do this. Well done Bailey, you really are an inspiration. Xx.”
The Castle Triathlon Series took place at Castle Howard this weekend and sees a range of competitors from elite to first timers doing a series of distances from starter courses to a half iron distance. Yesterday also saw over 500 children compete alongside the inspirational Bailey.